Dr. Mark Cross of Ultraseal International explores the role of vacuum impregnation when implementing zero waste, zero defect and continuous improvements in hybrid and electric vehicle manufacturing.
Fast-cycle times increase throughput for both single and multi-part processing.
With the world focused on finding sustainable, low-carbon solutions for travel, the move to hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) and battery electric vehicle (BEV) adoption is well underway.
According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, EV sales (mild hybrid, full hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full battery-electric vehicles) are expected to surpass internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle sales by 2030, taking 51 percent of the market, with BEV and PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) categories accounting for 25 percent of total vehicle sales. However, 82 percent of cars will still contain an ICE powertrain, with PHEVs, HEVs and mild hybrids all using internal combustion engines alongside their electric powertrain.
Automotive manufacturers are under pressures from many sides. On the consumer side, there is a sharp drop in confidence in diesel due to the introduction of clean air zones, some of which are already in force, and a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles in the UK by 2035.
Meanwhile, governments around the world are tightening up on automotive emission legislation. In Europe, there are increasingly stringent CO2-emission regulations. In China, efficiency is paramount, with their ever-stricter Corporate Average Fuel Consumption (CAFC) and New-Energy Vehicle (NEV) regulations testament to that.
To meet these regulations and consumer needs, car makers are gearing up to launch a wave of new electric vehicle (EV) models during 2020. Many EVs on the market in recent years have been targeted at high-end markets with a price tag to match. However, 2020 will see the launch of EVs which are much more familiar and accessible to the average driver, including the MINI, the Vauxhall Corsa, the Fiat 500 and the Volkswagen ID.3 and e-Up! being just a few to mention.
There’s no doubt that significant advances have already been achieved in hybrid and BEV manufacturing in recent years. However, while these vehicles offer a greener alternative during operation, it is increasingly important that the engineering and manufacturing process behind them is also environmentally sustainable.
The Role of Vacuum Impregnation in Automotive Manufacturing
With vehicle weight having an adverse effect on battery usage, hybrid and BEV manufacturers are increasingly looking at ways to reduce overall vehicle mass. The use of structural die cast components can help – especially if manufacturers opt to substitute materials, such as steel, with lightweight materials like aluminium. By manufacturing drive and powertrain components, such as electric motors, from die cast aluminium, car makers can further reduce vehicle weight. In turn, battery range can be extended for BEVs and HEVs, while reducing vehicle emissions for the latter as well.
Hyundai Motor has announced that it plans to manufacture its electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore, starting in 2022, according to Straits Times. As such, the auto maker will be setting up a 28,000 square metre plant in Singapore with construction to begin in October.
The new plant will have the capacity to manufacture 30,000 EVs a year, with as many as 6000 cars sold in Singapore, and the new facility will create hundreds of jobs for the city. An electric compact crossover based on the IONIQ EV range is speculated to be the first vehicle produced at the plant.
In the past two decades, the car market has declined twice: first due to the 2008 economic crisis, and then due to falling sales in China. Most recently, the lockdowns implemented to combat the coronavirus pandemic, causing auto-production plants to close globally and a loss of consumer spending will lead to an unprecedented 23 percent decline in 2020, according to a report “Advanced Electric Cars 2020-2040” by IDTechEx.
In the following decade (2030 – 2040), things will not improve: the global car market will be blindsided by the rise of autonomous vehicles, which greatly reduces the need for private car ownership. Within this scenario, it is electric cars which will remain a beacon of growth, satisfying both the governmental drive to clean air in cities whilst also working more readily with autonomous vehicle technology.
In their simplest form, an electric car consists of an energy storage device powering one electric traction motor, which spins wheels via a transmission. First invented in the 19th century, electric cars ultimately lost the battle to the internal combustion engine, unable to compete with the energy density of gasoline. Over one hundred years later, the Li-ion battery is enabling their meteoric rise as a solution for reducing local emissions and green-house gases.
Once derided as toys, today electric cars with barely 15 years of development offer cutting-edge automotive technology and performance, from sub 2.5 second 0 – 60mph acceleration, to autonomous driving functionality and solar bodywork. Battery-electric vehicles (BEV) are the endgame: zero emissions at point of use and the focus of automotive start-ups (and China). On the other hand, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) provide a short/mid-term solution, soothing initial fears of range anxiety.
German multinational conglomerate ThyssenKrupp recently renewed its partnership with Changzhou National Hi-Tech District (CND), in Changzhou, representing its fifth investment in the Chinese city in five years.
ThyssenKrupp decided to move forward with an additional investment of US$200 million to build a global automotive electronic power steering (EPS) system facility in the district. As one of the world’s top 500 firms, ThyssenKrupp is the result of the merger of Thyssen and Krupp and has established its leadership in the steel refining sector, as well as the automotive parts and elevator manufacturing sectors.
With a focus on the high-tech manufacturing of automotive parts, the German conglomerate invested 25 million euros five years ago to set up ThyssenKrupp Steering System (Changzhou) Co., Ltd.
The conglomerate’s fifth investment in Changzhou will focus on the R&D and production of the world’s most advanced automotive EPS systems, which will vastly reduce the energy consumption of electric vehicles, giving drivers and passengers a better experience, while empowering unmanned driving technologies. Despite the negative effect that the current international economic situation and the COVID-19 pandemic are having on international economic cooperation, ThyssenKrupp remains upbeat about the prospects in China.
ThyssenKrupp’s manufacturing facilities in Changzhou have delivered increasingly exciting results, evidenced by sales from the Changzhou facilities growing 48.9 percent year on year in 2017, followed by a growth rate that advanced 85.9 percent in 2018 and 36 percent in 2019. ThyssenKrupp Presta Steering Asia Pacific Chief Operating Officer Chen Min commented after the signing ceremony that thanks to CND’s favorable business environment and the five investments in Changzhou over a five-year period, China promises a brighter future for the company.
The registered capital of ThyssenKrupp’s manufacturing facilities in Changzhou has reached approximately 900 million yuan. Chen Min said: “Looking forward, Changzhou’s facilities will become our largest steering system manufacturing base around the world and their combined annual sales are expected to double to some 5 billion yuan in three to five years.”
Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, Global Powertrain Outlook, 2020, finds that global automotive sales are expected to decline by more than 14.2 percent due to COVID-19 by the end of 2020 as manufacturing facilities and supply chains are affected by worldwide lockdowns. However, this slowdown is not expected to have an impact on consumer purchase trends. Demand for diesel engines is expected to decline in Europe by 30 percent by the end of 2020 as Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLPT) commences, while global electric vehicle (EV) sales are forecast to increase by about 3.4 percent, spurring demand for gasoline-hybrid and fully-electric powertrains
“OEMs will focus on hybridising existing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles as full hybrids have proven to help comply with stricter regulations and have also enjoyed consumer success in recent times,” said Naga Karthik Voruganti, Research Analyst, Automotive & Transportation at Frost & Sullivan.
“Engine downsizing will continue, while the highly efficient gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines will continue seeing an increase in adoption. The integration of gasoline particulate filters (GPFs) and three-way catalytic converters (3WCs) is expected to increase substantially in 2020 with more OEMs seeking to get their gasoline-powered vehicles certified under the new WLTP regulations.”
Voruganti also said mild-hybrid powertrains and the standardisation of exhaust after-treatment technologies, such as selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and coated GPF, are major technology trends that could impact the powertrain industry in 2020.
The growth opportunities in the key regional markets will vary considerably. The main trends and growth opportunities in each key region are presented below:
The United States: The US is expected to register about 1.13 million electric and hybrid vehicle sales in 2020, an increase of about 4.7 percent, with a majority of the growth coming from Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and mild and full hybrids.
Europe: European Electric Vehicles of all types (xEV) sales are expected to grow by 5.3 percent, assuming a moderate COVID-19 impact, and EVs alone will have a positive growth of about 27.5 percent.
China: Vehicle sales are projected to decrease in 2020 due to the unpredictable impact of COVID-19, but EV share is expected to increase from 4.9% of the sales in 2019 to 5.6% in 2020.
India: Hybrid vehicle sales increased by 75 percent from 2018, which poses opportunities for OEMs to explore the market. Diesel vehicles will witness an increase in prices compared to gasoline due to the stringent norms of Bharath Stage – 6 (BS-VI).
South Korea: Despite a decline of 1.6 percent in recorded sales nation-wide and the end of the temporary tax cut in August, the Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) 48V segment enjoyed 283% growth, as sales quadrupled in 2019.
Indonesia: Car sales improved toward the end of 2019, but due to the sudden and massive impact of COVID-19 on the global supply chain, overall sales are expected to decline by about 17.3 percent in 2020.
Japan: Although the sales of new passenger cars in the country in 2019 declined by 2.1 percent from 2018, Japanese brands’ sales have increased by 1.9 percent; sales of foreign brands declined by 3.3 percent. Vehicle sharing and the fading appeal of cars among the younger population are trends expected to affect the domestic market in 2020.
Vinfast, Vietnam’s first domestic car manufacturer, has launched its Research and Development Center in Australia to boost international activity.
The establishment of VinFast Office in Melbourne—the industrial hub of Australia is a strategic move, taking advantage of the presence of giant automakers such as such as Toyota, Ford, Mitsubishi, GM, Melbourne, its complete supply chains and industry experts.
VinFast Australia aims to expand its presence in international markets, connect with leading suppliers and to catch up with the latest technologies and trends. The facility will be focused on research and development of new car models, including both ICE and BEV variants.
Earlier in 2020, VinFast Austrialia has started operations with its Automotive Technology Institute 2. It staffs nearly 100 industry experts and engineers from the world’s leading automakers.
The COVID-19 uncertainty will globally dent electric vehicle (EV) sales, which are estimated to stand somewhere between ±9 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 under three different scenarios—gradual containment, severe pandemic, and global emergency—according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan. But as the market recovers, which is probably after June in the best-case prospect, it is predicted to experience healthy growth. In an optimistic scenario, EVs are estimated to grow by 8.6 percent year-on-year (YoY), registering 2.5 million unit sales (battery electric vehicles plus plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) globally in 2020.
“EV sales will be driven by the implementation of stringent emission norms across countries and global policies favouring the adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEVs),” said Prajyot Sathe, Automotive and Transportation Industry Manager at Frost & Sullivan. “Additionally, non-monetary or tax incentives are likely to be more attractive for buyers as countries with the highest EV penetration ratio such as Norway and the Netherlands offer these rather than cash incentives.”
According to Sathe, if BEVs are pushed by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on new energy vehicle (NEV) credit mandates, China is set to remain the market leader with a 48.3 percent share. Europe, on the other hand, is expected to have the highest YoY growth of over 10%, mainly driven by availability of models, reduced delivery times and compliance push.
Marposs continues to enhance and upgrade its measurement and inspection solutions to ensure complete monitoring of the production processes of EV components.
Marposs offers different solutions for the measurement and control of electric vehicles
For almost 70 years, Marposs has been working side by side with customers to guarantee quality control in the mass production processes. The wide range of technologies and products available, together with a worldwide presence, have made Marposs the ideal partner for OEMs, first and second tiers, as well as machine tool makers operating in the automotive industry.
In times of great changes, Marposs is taking up the challenge to stay a strong reference for the automotive market in the e-mobility era. The traditional product lines are integrated with new technologies to provide a mix of gauging, inspection and testing solutions that ensure the complete monitoring of the production process of the main electric vehicle (EV) components. Marposs offers a full range of solutions for the control and optimisation of the various manufacturing steps, the quality control of individual components, up to the final assembly operations and functional check of any assembled system.
Traditional sensing, probing and in-process gauging solutions for process control during machining, turning, milling, and grinding operations are combined with thermographic analysis systems for process control during die-casting operations, and machine vision techniques to detect defects and porosity on machined sealing surfaces.
Consolidated techniques for monitoring of cutting and stamping operations are implemented in EV optic for process control in the production of rotors stack and stators’ sheet metal, or in the manufacturing of rigid battery cell housing.
Non-contact gauging products based on confocal or interferometric technologies are applied for process control in the production of metallic and non-metallic thin films, typically used in the manufacturing of anodes and cathodes, as well as in quality control of multi-layer pouch battery cover films.
Wide Range of Measurement Solutions
The battery trays provide the structural support of the car itself and must be leak proof to avoid the entry of water from the outside in all conditions.
The wide range of Opto and Flex machines for flexible shaft measurement is enriched with solutions that integrate different technologies to control a greater range of components; from traditional crank-, cam- and gear- shaft, up to rotor-shaft and complete rotors. The product range of optical gauges is enriched with non-contact measuring solutions dedicated to the analysis of shape and size on other critical components such as hairpins.
Automatic assembly operations of electro-mechanical components, such as battery chargers and power electronics are combined with measurement and test systems, up to the complete end-of-line functional verification.
Thanks to collaborations with companies specialising in the sector, Marposs can today offer a complete range of products and applications dedicated to the execution of functional tests on electric motors and their components. The use of advanced techniques such as insulation tests with partial discharge method on stators, in association with more consolidated methodologies such as SURGE and HI-POT test, ensure the possibility of detecting also the presence of latent defects that could generate failures during use, and therefore guarantee compliance with the highest quality standards that are required for the use of electric motors in the automotive sector.
The synergistic contribution of other companies of the group, with specific skills in the automation sector, allows then to transfer these controls from laboratory environments to mass production, with the in-line integration of automatic machines for the execution of End-of-Line testing, both on rotors and on stators and finished electric motors.
Strong Experience in Leak Testing
Last but not least, the strong experience in leak testing applications, integrating different technologies, always guarantees the selection of the best solution for one of the most crucial controls in the manufacturing of all components of an electrical powertrain, from battery cells to modules and packs, up to electric motors, power electronics and related refrigeration circuits.
Performing of leak testing becomes a particularly strategic issue when it must be applied to battery components.
The verification of the perfect sealing of the battery cells is absolutely fundamental to prevent dangerous leakages of liquid electrolyte, but also to ensure their efficient operation over time, due to the high sensitivity to humidity of the active components in the lithium-ion cells. The extremely low acceptable leakage allowed on the cells requires the use of vacuum chamber techniques, using helium as a tracer gas. Marposs offers a wide range of applications in this area, from fully automatic machines for 100% control in mass production lines, to manual stations for off-line verification of the components declared rejected in the in-line control.
The application of these techniques on the finished cells can be particularly complex due to their total sealing. For this purpose, Marposs has developed new leak testing methods, which do not require the addition of any tracer gas inside the cell.
The leakage check is then equally strategic at the battery pack level, in order to prevent the entry of water and other contaminants, which could cause the short circuit of high voltage components. In this case, although the leakage levels required to ensure compliance with IP specifications are normally higher than the reject limits imposed for the cells, the execution of the test is complicated by the large size of the component to be tested and by its high deformability.
Marposs is able to offer a complete range of solutions and technologies to choose from, according to the test specifications requested by the customer. From solutions in air (pressure decay or mass flow), moving on to global testing techniques with helium in accumulation chamber or in the vacuum chamber. Helium sniffing solutions are instead used whenever it is necessary to accurately identify the leak point, as for example in repair stations.
Equally important, finally, is the verification of the perfect seal on all the different parts of the refrigeration circuits, on whose efficiency the optimal thermal management of all the components of the battery pack depends.
Pat Boland, co-founder of ANCA talks about electric vehicle manufacturing, their new motor temperature control technology, and his outlook for the year. Article by Stephen Las Marias.
Founded in 1974, ANCA is one of the leading manufacturers of CNC grinding machines, motion controls, and sheet metal solutions. The company has manufacturing plants in Melbourne, Australia, and in Rayong, Thailand, as well as offices in the UK, Germany, China, India, Japan, Brazil, and the United States.
Pat Boland is the co-founder and joint managing director of ANCA. In an interview with Asia Pacific Metalworking Equipment News (APMEN), he talked about how their industry has changed over the past decades, trends driving the cutting tool industry, and the latest technologies in CNC machines.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MILESTONES THAT THE COMPANY HAS HAD OVER THE YEARS?
Pat Boland (PB): It’s been an interesting 45 years that ANCA has been operating, starting with some very simple four-axis machines, up to complex multi-axis machines today.
One of the key enablers for our machines is software. ANCA has pioneered several aspects of CNC tool, cutter and grinder technology, and in particular, key software features. We were the first company to integrate in-machine measurement using a probe—measuring the geometry of the cutting tool and adapting the program to regrind it.
We were the first to introduce full 3D simulation, which generates an accurate 3D model of the tool to be produced. This revolutionised the operation of machines because previously, people had to grind the part, look at it, and then make adjustments. With the simulation, it is possible to completely do that offline and be very confident of what you are going to produce in the machine.
ANCA is known for its innovation. We have our own unique form of servo motors to drive all our machines. We call them tubular linear motors—the introduction of which increased our technological capabilities significantly.
ONE OF YOUR NEW PRODUCTS, THE GCX LINEAR, IS TARGETED FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES (EV). HOW DO YOU SEE THE DEVELOPMENT IN THIS SECTOR?
PB: There are many changes in the sector, which have broad impacts in the wider industry. The pending move to EVs is one of those items. In some ways, the machine tool industry is going to be affected very significantly by the simplification of the drive train of the EV compared to internal combustion engine. That will impact us in terms of demand for cutting tools.
However, there are some aspects in EV manufacturing, such as a large number of very accurate, small gears required for the electric gear boxes where efficiency is absolutely critical. Among those are the internal gears. Traditional methods of manufacturing internal gears such as shaper cutters are relatively slow and have geometrical limitations. But an old concept, called skiving, is becoming very popular to manufacture these internal gears.
However, the difficulty with skiving is that every gear design requires a special cutter design, and for Class A, AA cutters, the accuracy of the cutters is extraordinarily tight.
The GCX is based on our TX7, but we have undertaken several developments such as improving the accuracy and efficiency of the machine for manufacturing skiving cutters. With software, we have a complete solution for the design and simulation of the skiving cutters, and the actual simulation of the skiving process.
So, the cutter can be designed, and the actual grinding path for that design can be generated. On the machine, we have redesigned several elements to really step up the accuracy. There is a new headstock, a new dressing technology, and other technologies such as an acoustic emission monitoring system. We also have motor temperature control or MTC (patent pending), which we developed for skiving gear tool grinding, where we actively measure and control the temperature of all the rotary motors in the machine—the dressing spindles, the grinding spindles, the axis turning the cutter.
I am proud of MTC – our constant temperature spindle control because from an engineering point of view, it is very simple, but it has a big impact on the performance of the machine. And it is something different, and to my knowledge, something unique. Just by changing the firmware and the drive system for the spindle, we were able to hold the temperature, and really have quite a significant impact on the actual stability and performance of the machine. I think it is a breakthrough.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY?
PB: What we did is, when you run an electric motor, by changing the parameters, you can change the losses in the electric motor. And by changing the losses in the motor, we can regulate the temperature. You set a set point, say 27 deg C: if the temperature is 26 deg C, the machine will deliberately increase the losses in the motor to heat it up until it gets to 27 deg C. Then, if the temperature is over, the machine can reduce the losses to regulate that temperature.
As far as I know, it is unique. The spindle is a key component. When you get a temperature rise, you will get dimensional variation in the position of the wheel, the grinding wheel, or the cutting tool. Maintaining a very accurate temperature improves the basic dimensional accuracy of the machine.
WHAT ARE ITS BENEFITS?
PB: Typically, you must warm up a machine by running it through a cycle to get to a working temperature. That takes around half an hour. With this technology, heating the spindle up can reduce that half an hour to maybe 10 minutes. That’s cost saving. And then of course, while you are grinding, you reduce the dimensional variation.
This offers users improved accuracy and stability. We are talking about lights out manufacturing. Everything you can do to keep things stable in that lights out environment is a benefit. We are currently using it in some of our machines: the CPX and GCX Linear. When this technology goes through the rest of our machines, I think it will be highly popular with our customers in terms of improved dimensional stability.
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS YEAR?
PB: By nature, I am always a bit of a pessimist, and there is a lot happening in the world to cause worry. But the world changes so quickly. China is such a large and diversified industrial market that I think business is going to be tougher there, but nevertheless, it will still be very significant business. Meanwhile, I see ASEAN countries still have a lot of opportunities for growth.
Overall, I expect probably a continuation of the cyclical downturn—but I don’t know how long that cycle is actually going to last. However, we will continue to provide innovative solutions for our customers who may be looking to diversify in response to market trends.
The total annual demand for battery packs for the growing electric vehicle (EV) segment will grow from US$26.6 billion in 2019 to US$137.1billion by 2025, according to analysts from Yole. This demand will be driven mainly driven by full electric vehicles, specifically battery EVs (BEVs), which will represent 75.9 percent of the total demand in GWh by 2025. Plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) enable big CO2 emission reductions due to their electric engines, while keeping long driving ranges thanks to their ICEs3—taking second place in Yole’s ranking of total demand measured in GWh by 2025. Yole has releases a technology and market analysis focused on the Li-ion batteries industry: Li-ion battery packs for automotive and stationary storage applications.
“The EV sector is booming mainly due to the need to significantly reduce average vehicle fleet CO2 emissions to match governments’ strict CO2 emission reduction targets and thus avoid heavy penalties,” commented Milan Rosina, PhD, Principal Analyst, Power Electronics and Batteries, at Yole Développement (Yole), within the Power & Wireless division.
Stationary battery energy business is not the first priority of most battery manufacturers that are focusing today mainly on electric mobility. But the market growth for stationary battery systems is growing and is mainly driven by renewable energy sources, mainly photovoltaics and wind, and electricity grid regulation. EV/ PHEV charging stations have emerged as a new interesting market driver for stationary battery energy storage solutions to “smooth” strong electricity demand peaks while charging many EV/PHEVs at the same time.
Yole’s market forecast has been made during the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). According to the analysts, the impact of this virus on automotive and battery industry is significant. It is hard to evaluate how long this crisis will last and how its duration will negatively impact the manufactured volumes of conventional vehicles and EV/PHEV. The numbers presented in this report for 2020 might be thus reduced in the case of prolonged crisis due to coronavirus.
“There is no big technology breakthrough expected in coming years regarding battery cells and other battery pack components. The main trends will involve existing technology solutions, which will be further improved and more widely deployed. Technology and cost improvement will be steady,” said Shalu Agarwal, PhD, Power Electronics and Materials Analyst at Yole, within the Power & Wireless division.
Battery pack suppliers face significant challenges from newcomers attracted by the fast-growing market, dominant position of some cell suppliers, and strong price pressure on all battery application segments. Most battery pack suppliers are battery integrators, especially carmakers. They purchase battery cells mainly from leading suppliers like CATL, LG Chem, Panasonic and Samsung SDI, and build their battery pack using other components, including BMSs, heating/cooling systems, electrical interconnections, safety components, and housings. Carmakers are intruding ever more into battery cell design and in some cases also into cell manufacturing, as in the cases of Tesla and Daimler. Instead of purchasing cells, some battery integrators purchase battery modules directly and they just integrate modules into battery packs.
Indeed, the modular battery pack approach enables further manufacturing cost reductions and keeps the design flexibility for battery packs. Some carmakers have developed specific internal know-how and established tight supply chain partnerships. They might remain at least partially stuck with their historical technology and integration choices, while their competitors will move rapidly towards latest technologies and full vehicle electrification.